Valerie Thomas Hartshorne: 1931-2023
My mother, Valerie Thomas Hartshorne, died yesterday, January 30, 2023. It’s been a long slide toward the end as we’ve followed my mother’s journey throughout her long life with Parkinson’s and circulation issues that hampered her mobility. Surrounded by family in her home bedroom, Valerie Hartshorne passed away yesterday, age 91, and was fully ready to leave this Earth.
My memories of my mother stretch out over so many decades, I’ve always been in touch with and close to her. She had such a large role in my life, even as we lived for most of our lives in separate states. One of my favorite things was the daily phone call I used to make in 2017 for almost a whole year before my father died in 2018. I was the pill-reminder guy. So every day at 12:30 I’d ring them up and get a little check-in, it was a cherished time in my life, being in touch daily with both of them.
All throughout my life my relationship with my parents was close, closer than most people I know because they were truly interested in me, my life, and what I had to say. Some people’s parents are not like that, but I had the best because Nat and Val always heard me and didn’t judge me. I feel blessed to have had a life without stress with regard to my parents, they were good to me and I loved the time I spent with them.
Valerie Hartshorne’s vibe was a peaceful and reassuring one, she fit the role of mother and of wife so completely. Val had a way of making people feel comfortable, she had a true warmth and compassion that led her to help people in need. She worked as a volunteer at Planned Parenthood for decades, and for SAVE the animal rescue down the road. My daughter Kate Hartshorne credits Vally for the career she followed, becoming a nurse who helps deliver babies. She inspired dozens of people throughout her long life.
Countless numbers of people who joined her in decades of AA meetings saw her as a role model and example. She walked the walk, stopping drinking in the 1980s and never looking back, sober and clear the rest of her whole life. But she never admonished anyone else over their drinking, she simply provided an example for people. She was happy to party with all of us, with her sober drinks of choice in hand.
Vally was surrounded by her family until she died, she never knew the inside of an assisted living facility. She had my sister Caroline living in the house with her children, and I know she loved hearing the noises of the kids and the coming and going through the busy old house, which was once the Blawenburg Tavern. The house that mom and dad bought in 1960 has been our family homestead for the past 63 years.
Vally made every one of her ten grandchildren feel special. Each had their own tradition to associate with Vally. She was a constant, steady, and reliable presence in each of these lucky kids’ lives. And each of them loved her for it, to a person.
Vally had her devoted full-time aide, Lisa, and her prickly cat with no name who only she and Lisa really liked, the cat loved them both and no one else.
I’ve always said that the two people who I admire the most in this world were the ones who raised me, Nat and Val. I always felt to proud that these empathic, sensitive, and understanding people were at the other end of the phone, or waiting for me in their home when I visited. I was proud to introduce them to my friends because I knew that they would quickly make whoever it was warm to them and soon they too would see what I saw.
Mom was the kind of person who made big changes when she needed to, like when she woke up one day after getting drunk and said, enough! And spent the next decades sober. One time my father went out and bought a very expensive and very large car, a 1973 Chevrolet Caprice Estate, one of the longest station wagons ever built.
And in about one month, Val convinced Dad to return the car to the dealer and instead, we bought a Volkswagen Beetle and a small VW Station Wagon, which she much preferred. The bug would go on to be my very first car.
One of the last best conversations I had with Vally was once when she was quite lucid. This was just a few months ago when my sister Jenny brought Vally to New York City to see the Music Man on Broadway.
As this show has always been one of our family’s touchstones, we talked about the original musical and the movie, and it was just the nicest thing that she was able to hear Hugh Jackman in person sing those famous songs.
January 31, 2023 @ 6:09 pm
Such a sweet tribute to your mother. I’m sure she was terribly proud of you!
January 31, 2023 @ 8:01 pm
I feel for you, Max. She was a great Woman who made a fine son.
February 1, 2023 @ 8:10 am
Your parents were the building bridge to my successful adult life, by providing my brother and sister with the image of parenting done well, with loving care and joy in their family, their friends, and the neighborhood children. We all loved and admired your mother and father.
February 1, 2023 @ 11:25 am
Thanks Friends, I really appreciate your reading my tribute.
February 1, 2023 @ 11:38 am
What a beautiful tribute to your lovely mother!! It sounds like she was the kind of person who made a difference wherever she went.
How wonderful to be blessed with such loving and compassionate parents. It speaks a lot to hear you say they are the people you admire most.
Pam Thomas Alexander
February 1, 2023 @ 1:33 pm
Been eagerly waiting to read this one after the last one for your Uncle Dave! Tears, smiles, hugs, and prayers to you, Max. Missy was one of a kind and indeed a role model for all of us. I am so looking forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks.
February 1, 2023 @ 10:30 pm
Lovely tribute, Max. Your Mom and Dad were very special people who had the ability to make me smile, no matter what.
February 2, 2023 @ 9:11 am
My love and thoughts are with you and the family
February 2, 2023 @ 11:50 am
Sorry for your loss. That was a beautiful tribute that you wrote. She seemed like a remarkable woman. I’m sorry I didn’t have the chance to meet her but it seems like she touched many lives, not least, your own. May the memories keep you going in this sad time.
February 2, 2023 @ 12:15 pm
I was moved by your touching tribute to your mom (and dad) Max. We’re at that age where we’re seeing the cycle of life come full circle for our parents and others that have been so impactful in our lives. My mom passed in 2011 at age 81 and it’s tough. I have a faint memory of meeting your mom at the house when I visited you in Blawenburg in the late seventies. However brief, I do remember her warmth and hospitality while we were there.
Her long-term sobriety and involvement with others in AA say a lot about her desire to help and love others. Knowing you, I’d say she was a great mom who raised you and your siblings with love and compassion for others. Have faith that she lives on and loves you all dearly.